Day 4 (it’s all greek to me)

I did it again.  I hit the club circuit last night with a buddy of mine.  He has a friend who is a local Deejay, who hipped us to a party for a college grad who received her Master’s degree – at age 54.  The party was nice with some old school music for the over forty crowd, which pleased me to no end.  As it turned out, after listening to the congratulatory speeches, it was all family – a semi-private affair.  So, we left there and headed for another spot in the same general vicinity.  The club was packed, but we opted not to go in.  Upon looking through the window, it was evident that this was not the place to be – everyone was dressed in white linen.  That meant it was another semi-private affair.

Finally, we decided to head downtown and cop a squat at an outdoor restaurant and watch the ladies crowds go by.  As we drove down Broad St., the largest thoroughfare in Philly, I noticed more and more cop cars.  The further we drove, the more they seemed to take the spotlight.  I remarked to my buddy that it seemed a bit odd.  He informed a clueless me that it was the Greek Picnic weekend.  Well, duh!  It had really slipped my mind.  All of a sudden, the idea of sitting and watching the ladies crowds go by became all that more appealing.

I attended the University of Pennsylvania (back in the seventies), and I pledged, but, not to a Greek fraternity.  I pledge what was called a “social fellowship”Groove Phi Groove, Inc, or “G Phi G”.  Unfortunately, I never “went over”.  During Hell Week, the last week of hazing, teasing, stepping, and other such activities, I dropped out of school.  For several years thereafter, I attended the Greek Picnic in Fairmount Park faithfully.  It was always a great time.  Every Black frat in the world was in attendance – Alphas, Kappas, Deltas, the Q’s, even the Grooves were there.  Through the years, the picnic has changed drastically.  I believe that the last one that I attended was about twenty years ago.  That was the year that Philadelphia had decided that enough was enough.  They took measures to see to it that everything that could be done to put a damper on the event was done.  It started with diverting traffic and closing off streets, making it nearly impossible to acquire quick access to the picnic itself.  That was the year that I decided that I was either too old to attend anymore, or (the reality of it all) that I was not amenable to the changes that had been made.

Back to present day, it was about 12 midnight by the time we got downtown.  I spoke to the universe and told it that I was in need of a parking space.  It gladly complied and after only one trip around the block, I was blessed with a prime spot, just one and a half block away from the action.  We walked back to the corner of Second and Market Streets, the location of the best view in all of center city – an outdoor restaurant, right on the corner.  Upon approaching the restaurant, I noticed that it was so crowded that we’d never get a seat.  Ah – the universe.  I spoke once more and as we reached the crowded restaurant, a seat became available immediately, in just the right position – dead on the corner.  Cars would come down Second Street or turn off Market Street onto Second St. directly into our view.  At 1:50am, the police block off half of the street so that only cabs and valet parkers could drive down Second St. – crowd control, as it were.  That also meant that more people would be walking down Second Street, as well, since they had to park elsewhere and walk to get closer to the action.

I gotta tell you – the sights were out of this world.  The women already dressed outrageously in this part of town on the weekend, but, this was the Greek Picnic weekend – a horse of a totally different color!  The outfits got skimpier and skimpier and my eyes got wider and wider.  There were micro-mini skirts and dresses, tights, Daisy Dukes, and the ultimate pair – sheerness and cleavage ( I took two Advils this morning but my eyes are still spinning from the whiplash of it all).

We sat there for as long as we could.  The restaurant was closing and the manager was antsy about us leaving.  There was only one other table occupied – two Caucasian guys.  That gave me incentive to sit even longer.  The manager kept giving us the eye, but the waitress (who was smokin’ as well) was a darling and asked if we wanted another cup up coffee.  Since there was another table occupied, the manager couldn’t very well tell us to leave without telling other folks to leave as well.  Oh, happy day!  We sat a little longer, but, it was closing time for CEBU, the best club in the area, and time to head there for the “procession”.

The crowd was forming as other clubs closed and revelers from CEBU began to flow out. O – M – G !!!!! This is where the real whiplash of the eyes came to be.  It was one of the most spectacular processions that I’ve seen in quite a while.  However, it was also time for the police to disperse the crowd.  This is a procedure that is always done at Black-owned clubs, but rarely, if ever, at white-owned clubs.  We were in center city, the location of all of the successful white-owned clubs.  So, why were there policemen with nightsticks in hand, warning the crowd to move along?  Because even though this was a Cuacasian-owned area, the crowd was from the Greek Picnic, a Black organization.  OK – now, I get it.  Whenever Blacks are involved, the police seem to show up not only in force, but dressed in intimidation as well.  They would hit a metal street sign with their nightsticks beside an unsuspecting spectator, making enough noise to make one leap straight into the air.  WE are not stupid.  WE move from one corner to the next, making a virtual circle, as they roust us from one corner to the next, around and around the intersection.  After a while, that got to be boring and the crowd started to thin out and head for parts unknown.  My buddy and I watched  on the way back to the car, as bikers tried to pick up women.  It’s amazing how so many women are drawn to the sound of a roaring motorbike.

We had to go from Broad Street at Market (basically the “zero” hundred block of Broad Street, which would be properly called the “unit” block) to the top of Broad Street, the 68 hundred block.  That meant a long ride home.  However, getting home was not really on the immediate agenda.  After all, it was Greek Picnic weekend!!  The ride up Broad Street meant yet another eyeful for about 68 blocks.  Not so. The streets were lined with policemen fully-equipped in festival gear – intimidation and discrimination – from the spot we started, all the way up to about the 46 hundred block, the virtual end of any worthwhile activities.  No, there would be no more hoochie-mama-watching this night.  There would be no more steppers stompin’ the yard one last time.  There would be no wheelies performed by the young and the reckless.  This year there was merely a shell of what once was one of the greatest weekends of a Philadelphia summer – the Greek Picnic.

Things being as they are these days, let’s just call it the “Weak Picnic” weekend.

copyright  ©  freedom


2 Responses to “Day 4 (it’s all greek to me)”

  1. Seems like you had a night. Crashing parties. Oogling young woman.
    Only joking.
    That does seem excessive. . .the police and their nightsticks.

  2. One of these days, I’ll tell the real story about clubbing – not for me anymore, just helping out a would-be wayward friend.

    The police have a way of being excessive when it comes to Black people. I have been in the vicinity of this particular club many times at closing and there have never been police chasing people away. Because the Greek Picnic was on tap this weekend, the city has looked like Marshall Law has been invoked. Thanks for stopping by. Peace.

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